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World Cup Season Review with FIS Race Directors

Tue, Apr  17, 2007 - By FIS

FIS Race Directors for Nordic Skiing, Jürg Capol for Cross-Country Skiing, Walter Hofer for Ski Jumping, and Uli Wehling for Nordic Combined, shared some thoughts about the 2006/2007 season in their respective World Cups with the FIS Newsflash.

Jürg Capol: One of the most remarkable things this season was the creativity of many World Cup organizing committees. Faced with an adverse weather situation, many invested significant manpower and money to ensure that the races took place. In the end, we only lost two events due to a lack of snow and can be very content to have such reliable partners as organizers.

Jürg Capol

The two main changes for this season were the introduction of the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski and the sprint with six competitors in each final round. While we can still improve organizationally, the inaugural edition of the Tour was a great first step. Interest from the media increased throughout the event and the many positive comments from the athletes and teams bode well for the future. The change in sprint rules served to alter the mentality of the event: since the racing time mattered, competition continued until the finish line in all qualifying heats, and in many cases, the two time-fastest ‘Lucky Losers’ made it to the podium in the end. We also saw many distance skiers participating in the sprints as speed endurance made a difference. At the same time, we noticed that in the future we have to be even more careful with the selection of sprint courses so that the possibility for passing exists. Overall, both of these novelties helped bring us forward in our search for the most complete skier of the season and further away from specialization.

From a results point of view, we obviously had two dominators with extremely strong performances from the season’s beginning until the end. In a season that involves this much travel - including a very successful return to Russia and the first distance races in China - it is natural to see some more individually-tailored racing schedules. Going forward, however, one of our main areas of focus will be building a calendar with clear highlights, especially in years without a title event. This could take the form of increasing the importance of the finals, for example. The first trial for changing skis during the competition held in Oslo (NOR) also went without problems and opens the door for more discussion.

Walter Hofer: We often have relatively large fluctuations during the season following the Olympic Winter Games. This year was no exception. We had eight athletes from seven nations taking World Cup victories while ten nations stood on the podium at least once. And, we are always pleased see new names amongst the winners, most notably Anders Jacobsen (NOR), Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT) and Arttu Lappi (FIN).

Walter Hofer

In terms of the equipment, it became clear this season that the athletes have now become used to the new regulations. We saw significant technical development in the inrun and take off-phases of the jump where the athletes have become much more aggressive.

On the whole, this challenging season where we constantly fought with the elements showed us that all organizers must be prepared for all situations. There is no venue with guaranteed good weather any longer. Specific preparations are especially required for wind protection and the inrun track. For us at FIS, this means that we need to provide more support for the organizers with their technical preparations. This begins with site inspections in the summer and continues with the technical delegates who probably should arrive at the venue 2-3 days earlier than they have done in the past.

In the upcoming FIS Technical Committee meetings we will also be discussing some changes to the execution of our competitions, from the qualification to the final round. We seek to further optimize the length of the competition and the size of the field.

Uli Wehling: This season can be best characterized as a complicated one. Of the 21 planned events we were able to hold just 16 due to some challenging weather conditions which made it difficult to present our sport in the best light.

Uli Wehling

At the same time, we are quite pleased with the three events at the FIS World Ski Championships in Sapporo, all of which were staged at a very high level and contained great athletic performances. Additional positive news from this season includes the successful introduction of the compact sprint in Lahti (FIN), which turned out to be well-liked by all stakeholders. We learned that it is very feasible to stage a competition consisting of two very different disciplines within a short timeframe and to present the sport as one entity. Of course, Hannu Manninen’s (FIN) fourth overall World Cup victory in a row was historic, no less because he finally captured an individual medal at a title event. The fact that the win in the World Cup sprint rankings did not go to the overall winner but to young Jason Lamy-Chappuis (FRA) also speaks to the broad field of strong athletes we saw this year. And, we should not forget to mention the return of USA to the podium through Bill Demong’s excellent races at the end of the season. By and large, we are also satisfied with the balance of the different events on our schedule and with having held two team events for the first time in a long while.

Looking forward, we will have to discuss how we could further optimize the competition schedule and times together with our partners, including TV and organizers. Some of our goals should be to build more series of competitions and to find more opportunities for staging events together with Cross-Country Skiing and Ski Jumping. At our summer site inspections, we will be focusing on venue-specific improvements and in planning our TD education in the autumn, on the increasing requirements the changing climatic conditions place on the TDs in helping the organizers to deliver the competitions according to all rules and regulations.